Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Vivienne Files bookshelf: The Lost Art of Dress by Linda Przybyszewski





It's one of those questions that confounds the observant person - there are more clothes, and often more attractive clothes, in stores than ever before, but you see fewer well-dressed or just generally attractive people about.  Why are all of these appallingly bad clothing choices being made, and why (at least when I was a child) did women seem to be able to avoid making these mistakes and dress themselves flatteringly?

Linda Przybyszewski attempts to answer this question in this book - a very well-written and interesting look at the Home Economics teachers, Department of Agriculture Extension employees, and other women who used to help us choose our clothing.  I realize now that if I had never taken a Home Ec. class, I would certainly lack some of the fundamental skills in assessing clothing quality that I take for granted...

There's absolutely nothing in this book that's specifically oriented toward helping each of us make better personal style decisions, but seeing the approaches our mothers used (or that we used, when we were younger!) is fascinating, and can only help us in our quest to balance style, economy, and public responsibility.

To my friends who've been worried about where I've been - I was in Florida for a few days of familial fun!  We were woefully delayed getting home yesterday, so my schedule is officially all kerfluffulated. (ker fluff you lay ted)  You may use the word freely...

love,
Janice





Why yes, if you order this book from Amazon, they give me about 72 cents.  It all adds up, though!  And if you click on the word Amazon, it will take you to my newly created Amazon shop - where all of my favorite books will be available in one place...

25 comments:

  1. I don't see a link to Amazon....? Thanks for all you do!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's just so bizarre - right above where I mention Amazon, there should be a teeny picture of the book, upon which you can click and it takes you to Amazon. Can anybody else see it, or have I lost my mind? (these are not mutually exclusive choices, I understand...)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Janice -- the Amazon link worked for me. Thank you, as always, for your work and for your fine eye.

      Delete
  3. Indeed, I was hoping all is well with you and your care taking role. I remember the first time you used the word kerfluffulated was when you worked in the bakery. :) Yes, I have been reading for a long time. Glad you are back.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was using Chrome, and couldn't see the image -- I reloaded the page in Explorer, and there it is!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am on Firefox and there's no link either. Ah computers, gotta love 'em!

    Fern

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am also on Firefox, and I have the link. Glad to hear all is well, Janice. You were missed! I did enjoy the flashback posts, and I bookmarked the navy/coral post. Too bad llbean doesn't pay you royalties, since all five of my coral tops were ordered after I saw that post.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm using Chrome and the link is there, oh I'm on a Mac. Janice I bought the Kindle version. I have found that for much of my reading using Kindle works better for me. I too, took home ec in high school although I sew I still have times that I sew something that just does not work for me. I think sometimes I select fabric for the wrong reason and feel I need to use it and well not a good combo or result.
    Thanks for all of the work you do. I appreciate the reminders they inspire me to look at my fabric stash differently and I have gotten some great clothes out of it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I saw the link just fine with Firefox.
    A great tip, an excellent book. I do believe that, Pryzybyszewski makes the same points that you do about harmony. Well written and I may consider purchasing it if I can't find it at my local library.

    Bookbutterfly

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for recommending this book--can't wait to read it. I was thinking about your observation about there being more clothing available and how most people are so poorly dressed and realized that applies to almost everything in our society. An overwhelming supply of inexpensive food and so many choose unhealthy junk and too much of it. Scads of cleaning and laundry supplies and I doubt many homes uphold a higher or even equal standard of cleanliness than our mothers' generation. And we're well aware of the state of clothing maintenance not to mention the almost universal lack of any attempt at ironing. Infinite choices on television with the result being thousands of hours wasted on mindless programs. I could go on and on. The point is that in the world we live in we have to exercise discretion in what we allow into our lives. And when we're shopping for our wardrobes let's not let "junk clothes" tempt us.
    Teresa

    ReplyDelete
  10. This looks really good! My mom was a County Ext Home Economist in the 50's and I'd love to read more about their work.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I was just thinking about this and my mother's clothing RULES. They were writ in upper case for sure. Blouse must not show below hem of jacket. Black and navy don't go together. No closed-toe show without hose (or socks.) White must be worn with slip underneath. Obviously, slip must not show. The list goes on. It's a wonder I came out of my childhood able to dress myself at all!

    ReplyDelete
  12. What did you pack? I would love to know.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sounds fascinating - thanks for the recommendation! I just bought my copy (although I had to go with bn.com for my nook, sorry).

    ReplyDelete
  14. Janice, I ordered this book a few weeks ago from Amazon and was extremely disappointed in the content. I was hoping, from the title, more of a book on how women of style, in the past, came to be. Perhaps, lessons that we could apply now. I felt that the author decided to publish her thesis in the form of a 'style' book. I returned the book to Amazon. Very sad it was not what the title implies.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I am a Family and Consumer Sciences (née Home Ec) teacher in a large, well respected suburban St. Louis high school. I am happy to share that the classes still are available in many districts and for us, are thriving. Our department supports 6 full time faculty and specific to fashion construction, we offer 5 classes. We're will be rewriting curriculum this year, any thoughts from you or your readers on what you all think would be essential?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In addition to sewing from scratch, perhaps specific courses in alterations. While some people will never feel the need to sew their own clothes, almost everyone will eventually need to take up a hem or nip in a waistband.

      Delete
  16. @Susie H: I wish that I had taken Home Ec. in high school back in the 70's! Mine was always full and I could never get signed up. I think there's a lot of women (and thus hopefully their teenage daughters) who want to simplify and get back to the basics. I'd want a basic cooking and baking class and a sewing class (by hand for quick repairs and by machine for construction). Those are things I never really learned from my mother and wish I'd been interested enough to learn - before I was out on my own. Not sure if this falls in your realm of teaching, but it would be great if we could somehow teach our youth how to budget for household expenses, make a meal plan, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Susie H: In addition to Kim M. thoughtful list, I'd add, how to plan and develop a wardrobe, how to decide what to buy (construction, fabric, cost, maintenance, etc.) vs. what to make yourself, how to know what store-bought clothes can be altered, etc. My mother, who was an expert tailor, swore that it didn't pay to make a blouse (requiring expensive fabric and time-consuming with all those buttons and facings). Yet she made skirt suits and winter coats probably because the investment of time paid off in the longevity of the garment. I don't sew as much as I used to -- and I used to make a lot of my clothes, including modifying patterns, a skill a learned in a pattern-making class.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Susie H.: color theory! Also, basic home repairs--fixing a running toilet, making a window box or square foot garden box, painting a room, patching a hole in wood or a wall. Can you tell I'm speaking from painful self-taught experience?

    ReplyDelete
  19. The subtitle of the book is "The Women Who Once Made America Stylish." Uh, I don't think that would apply to my mother or any of my aunts. They did tend to wear dresses -- because that was what most women wore back then and because it was hot in San Antonio and no one had air conditioning. Most gatherings were held outside. I know that "high-end" shopping for us was Sears or Penney's or Montgomery Ward. Clothes were made with treadle sewing machines because store-bought clothes were not that common. Especially before the age of 6, I had more than one garment made from flour sacks. So when I see books like this, I wonder just who these fashion trend setters were. I doubt that they were from the same lower socio-economic working class environment I grew up in, and if my mother or my aunts were dropped into today at the same ages they were in the 50's, they would probably make bad clothing choices, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good points. My mother was a Nebraska girl transplanted to Los Angeles as a teenager, and I suspect her rigid rules for dressing were a result of that. She never developed a sense of style, and consequently never made "style choices." She picked and chose from what was available according to the "rules." I think there were far more women like my mother and yours determining what was worn than the nostalgic ladies of fashion this book describes.

      Delete
  20. I have just finished reading this book: loved it! As a 65 year old, I remember the well dressed women of the 50's (and many who weren't but tried) and I do hark back to those days of less expense and more style.
    Love your blog, and many of your capsule methods would make the Dress Doctors proud.

    ReplyDelete
  21. May I please ask where the photo in your blog header was taken? It is exquisite. My guess would be France but I am not sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband took that photo in Paris - that's the Louvre along the Seine. He's an amazingly good photographer, particularly since he never uses anything more than a simple digital camera and takes about 10 seconds to take a picture!

      Delete